India’s partition and 70 years of proxy jihad

The use of proxy jihadis in the Indian sub-continent is as old as India and Pakistan’s independence from British rule. 70 years after partition, the jihadist network has become so huge that it threatens both states.

Afghanistan Taliban Kämpfer (Getty Images/AFP/J. Tanveer)

In a recent interview with DW, Pakistani politician Imran Khan argued that the US intervention in Afghanistan is the main reason behind the rise of jihadi phenomenon in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Khan is only partly correct. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pakistani military’s spy group, the ISI, collaborated closely in Afghanistan to defeat Soviet forces in the 1980s. Washington and Islamabad invested heavily in Afghan mujahideen (Afghan “holy warriors”) and provided them militaristic and logistic support to fight the Moscow-backed government in Kabul. From the point of view of the US and Pakistan, it was a successful campaign. The mujahideen forced Soviet troops to retreat and were able to take control of the Afghan capital, Kabul. But what Khan and many others, who associate Afghan jihad with the Cold War’s US-Soviet rivalry, gloss over is the fact that Pakistan’s support for jihadis began as early as the country’s independence in 1947. Analysts say it spiked in the 1950s and peaked in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

Read: Opinion: The anniversary of hatred

Pakistan’s use of jihadi proxies has always been India-centric. Now when the West admonishes Islamabad for not relinquishing support to some factions of the Taliban, or the Haqqani Network, they overlook Pakistan’s concerns about Indian influence in Afghanistan. Also, and equally, significant is India’s control over a large part of the Kashmir region, which Islamabad considers a threat to its interests.

Watch video00:39

Imran Khan: military solution has failed in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Unsurprisingly, soon after India and Pakistan gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, the two nations got embroiled in a conflict over Kashmir, which continues to date.

The first jihad

“It is factually and historically incorrect that Pakistan started using jihad as an instrument of its defense policy in the 1980s. In reality, it happened as early as September, 1947, when Pakistani authorities armed and sent tribal militias to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Arif Jamal, a US-based journalist and author of several books, including “Shadow War – The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir” and “Call For Transnational Jihad: Lashkar-e-Taiba, 1985-2014,” told DW.

“These jihadis were dispatched to Kashmir under a well thought out plan conceived by Colonel Akbar Khan. The first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, and some members of his cabinet, participated in the planning. It is not confirmed whether Pakistan’s founder and Governor General, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was taken into confidence over this mission,” Jamal added.

“Jinnah had signed a stand-still agreement with the Maharaja (ruler) of Jammu and Kashmir, and jihad by tribesmen violated that agreement. The Maharaja then invited Indian troops to defend the state, which led to the first war between India and Pakistan and the division of Kashmir by the end of 1948,” said the expert.

Talat Bhat, a Sweden-based documentary filmmaker and director of the Kashmir Record and Research Council, told DW the jihadis’ involvement in the Kashmir dispute has had a negative impact on the secular and independent nature of the Kashmiri movement.

“Kashmir’s independent movement began in 1948 and kept gaining strength in Indian-occupied areas until 1985, a year after the hanging of the separatist leader Maqbool Bhat in 1984. His Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) party declared war on India in 1988, which also led to a popular independence movement,” Bhat said.

“But in 1991, Pakistan’s ISI created Hizbul Mujadeen (HM), an Islamist militant organization, to counter secular JKLF. Between 1991 and 1993, most JKLF commanders were either killed or jailed by HM or Indian troops. In 1994, JKLF declared unilateral ceasefire but Islamabad sent more Islamists, who had fought the war in Afghanistan, to Kashmir,” Bhat underlined.

Bhat is of the view that India benefited from the jihadis’ involvement as it allowed it to justify its oppression and “occupation” of Kashmir.

Read: The Islamization of Kashmir’s separatist movement

Watch video03:33

Inside India’s first partition museum

Indian influence

But blaming Pakistan for the jihadi situation and exonerating India from any responsibility would not be an objective analysis of the conflicts in the region.

Not only that Indian oppression in Kashmir is well-documented and criticized by international human rights organizations, India’s efforts to increase its influence in Afghanistan have also been pointed at by analysts. Experts say that Pakistan was justifiably worried about a pro-New Delhi and pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan right after the partition. Also, Pakistan did not want ethnic Pashtuns in its northwestern province to ally with Afghan Pashtuns.

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After the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the late 1980s and the Pakistan-backed Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, India only regained influence in the war-torn country following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent fall of the Taliban regime. Since then, India has heavily invested in the country hoping to minimize Pakistan’s role in Afghan politics. New Delhi also diplomatically supports separatists in Pakistan’s western Baluchistan province.

“Afghanistan does interfere in Pakistan’s internal affairs with some help from Indians,” Wahid Muzhda, a Kabul-based security analyst, told DW.

“India had close ties with the former Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah from 1933 to 1973. It is in India’s interest to keep Pakistan under pressure, and Afghanistan has always remained as one its main means of achieving this objective,” Muzhda added.

Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a lecturer at Kabul University, says that Afghanistan attempted to support Pashtun separatist movements in Pakistan from 1950 to 1970. “When Pakistan became stronger as a state, it started supporting different jihadi groups against the government in Kabul,” Zaland told DW.

Although many people think that military dictator Zia ul-Haq was the one who launched jihadi forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, analyst Arif Jamal believes it was Pakistan’s socialist Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

“In 1975, Bhutto invited many Afghan Islamists to Islamabad and convinced them to wage a jihad against the Afghan government. Many of these jihadists later emerged as leading mujahideen commanders in the 1980s,” Jamal said.

Read: Why are the Afghans wary of Pakistan?

But Zaland is of the view that the fear of Indian influence does not justify Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan.

“Indian diplomatic missions in Kandahar, Herat, Kabul and Nangarhar have become targets of deadly Islamist attacks since 2001. This shows the level of influence Pakistan enjoys over jihadis,” Zaland said.

Experts say the use of proxy jihadis in Afghanistan and Kashmir is as dangerous for Pakistan as it is for India. For a decade, Islamist militants have been wreaking havoc in Pakistan, targeting both civilians and security forces. The jihadi network has become so huge and complex that the state no longer has absolute control over it.

Read: How have India and Pakistan fared economically since partition?

Additional reporting by Masood Saifullah.

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Israel Said to Be Source of Secret Intelligence Trump Gave to Russians

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President Trump escorting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into the White House in February.CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to an episode that has renewed questions about how the White House handles sensitive intelligence.

Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East. Mr. Trump’s boasting about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries and raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.

Israeli officials would not confirm that they were the source of the information that Mr. Trump shared, which was about an Islamic State plot. In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, reaffirmed that the two countries would maintain a close counterterrorism relationship.

“Israel has full confidence in our intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States and looks forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead under President Trump,” Mr. Dermer said.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had an “absolute right” to share information in the interest of fighting terrorism and called his meeting with the Russians “very, very successful” in a brief appearance later at the White House.

On Capitol Hill, reaction split along party lines, but even many Republicans indicated that they wanted the White House to show more discipline.

“There’s some alignments that need to take place over there, and I think they’re fully aware of that,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “Just the decision-making processes and everybody being on the same page.”

In the meeting last week, Mr. Trump told Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, details about the Islamic State plot, including the city in Syria where the ally learned the information, the current official said. At least some of the details that the United States has about the Islamic State plot came from the Israelis, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

It was not clear whether the president or the other Americans in the meeting were aware of the sensitivity of what was shared. Only afterward, when notes on the discussion were circulated among National Security Council officials, was the information flagged as too sensitive to be shared, even among many American officials, the officials said.

Intelligence officials worried that Mr. Trump provided enough details to effectively expose the source of the information and the manner in which it had been collected.

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, defended Mr. Trump’s move, saying the president made a spur-of-the-moment decision to tell the Russians what he knew and did not expose the source of the intelligence because he was not told where it came from.

Moreover, General McMaster said that by discussing the city where the information originated, the president had not given away secrets. “It was nothing that you would not know from open-source reporting in terms of a source of concern,” he said. “And it had all to do with operations that are already ongoing, had been made public for months.”

Two senior United States military officials said that Mr. Trump’s disclosures seemed to align with an increasing concern that militants responsible for such attacks were slipping out of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, and taking refuge in other cities under their control, such as Deir al-Zour and Mayadeen.

These officials said they had no specific knowledge of what Mr. Trump told the two senior Russian diplomats in the Oval Office last week, or how that related to a likely decision expected soon by the Homeland Security Department to expand its ban on carrying portable electronics. But the officials said the timing of the events seemed hardly a coincidence.

American and British authorities in March barred passengers from airports in 10 predominantly Muslim countries from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cellphone aboard inbound flights to the United States after intelligence analysts concluded that the Islamic State was developing a type of bomb hidden in batteries. Homeland Security officials are considering whether to broaden the ban to include airports in Europe and possibly other places, American security officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure was also likely to fuel questions about the president’s relationship with Moscow at the same time that the F.B.I. and congressional committees are investigating whether his associates cooperated with Russian meddling in last year’s election. Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed such suspicions as false stories spread by Democrats to explain their election defeat, but his friendly approach toward President Vladimir V. Putin in spite of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and other actions has stirred controversy.

The timing of the episode also threatened to overshadow Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad as president. He is scheduled to leave on Friday for Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium.

In Israel, he was already likely to contend with Israeli officials rattled by the administration’s refusal to say outright that the Western Wall, one of the holiest prayer sites in Judaism, lies in Israel, and is not subject to territorial claims by the Palestinians. The wall is in Jerusalem — part of what is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary — and is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam. Both the Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

Now, the Americans and Israelis will have to contend with the serious breach of espionage etiquette. Israel had previously urged the United States to be careful about the handling of the intelligence that Mr. Trump discussed, the officials said.

Former officials said it was not uncommon for presidents to unintentionally say too much in meetings, and they said that in administrations from both parties, staff members typically established bright lines for their bosses to avoid crossing before such meetings.

“The Russians have the widest intelligence collection mechanism in the world outside of our own,” said John Sipher, a 28-year veteran of the C.I.A. who served in Moscow in the 1990s and later ran the agency’s Russia program for three years. “They can put together a good picture with just a few details. They can marry President Trump’s comments with their own intelligence, and intelligence from their allies. They can also deploy additional resources to find out details.”

Nonetheless, General McMaster said he was not concerned that information sharing among partner countries might stop.

“What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation and is consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leaders with whom he’s engaged,” General McMaster said at a White House briefing, seeking to play down the sensitivity of the information that Mr. Trump disclosed.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, declined to tell reporters whether the White House had reached out to the ally that provided the sensitive intelligence.

But General McMaster appeared to acknowledge that Thomas P. Bossert, the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, had called the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency after the meeting with the Russian officials. Other officials have said that the spy agencies were contacted to help contain the damage from the leak to the Russians.

General McMaster would not confirm that Mr. Bossert made the calls but suggested that if he did, he was acting “maybe from an overabundance of caution.”

The episode could have far-reaching consequences, Democrats warned. Any country that shares intelligence with American officials “could decide it can’t trust the United States with information, or worse, that it can’t trust the president of the United States with information,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

“I have to hope that someone will counsel the president about just what it means to protect closely held information and why this is so dangerous, ultimately, to our national security,” Mr. Schiff said at a policy conference in Washington sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a liberal group.

Russia dismissed the reports. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry denied that Mr. Trump had given classified information to Russian officials, and she denigrated American news reports of the disclosure as “fake.”

Sharing the United States’ own intelligence with Russia, much less information from a foreign ally, has long been a contentious issues in American national security circles. In fact, many Republicans strenuously objected last year when the Obama administration proposed sharing limited intelligence about Syria with Russia.

One of the Republicans was Mike Pompeo, the former congressman from Kansas who now runs the C.I.A. In an appearance last year on a podcast hosted by Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official now best known for his anti-Muslim views, Mr. Pompeo said sharing intelligence with the Russians was a “dumb idea.”

Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’

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Trump on Comey: ‘He’s a Showboat’

President Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that the F.B.I. was in turmoil, and that he was going to fire its director, James B. Comey, regardless of any recommendation.

By NBC NEWS. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

WASHINGTON — President Trump offered a new version of his decision to fire James B. Comey, saying on Thursday that he would have dismissed the F.B.I. director regardless of whether the attorney general and his deputy recommended it.

It was just the latest in a series of statements, some of them contradictory, to whiplash Washington over 48 hours that began with Mr. Comey’s firing on Tuesday evening. And it was unusually harsh: Mr. Trump castigated Mr. Comey as “a showboat” and “a grandstander,” suggesting that his issues with the F.B.I. director went beyond any previously stated concerns.

Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he had not relied solely on the advice from the Justice Department’s top two leaders in making his decision. And, for the first time, he explicitly referenced the F.B.I.’s investigation into his administration’s ties to Russia in defending Mr. Comey’s firing.

“And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’” Mr. Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News. “It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Earlier, the White House had said that Mr. Trump acted only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, came to him and recommended that Mr. Comey be dismissed because of his handling of last year’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. In his Tuesday letter terminating Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump said he had “accepted their recommendation.” And Vice President Mike Pence, talking to reporters, echoed his boss.

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But by the next day, that story had begun to unravel.

Mr. Rosenstein and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, spoke by telephone on Wednesday to review details that precipitated the firing, seeking to agree on a version of events that could be released to the public.

GRAPHIC

The Events That Led Up to Comey’s Firing, and How the White House’s Story Changed

White House officials initially said President Trump acted based on the recommendation of Justice Department officials, but Mr. Trump later said he would have fired the F.B.I. director regardless.

OPEN GRAPHIC

That conversation led to a new timeline that the White House shared with reporters hours later. It said that Mr. Trump had in recent weeks been “strongly inclined to remove” Mr. Comey, but that he had made his final decision only after receiving written recommendations on Tuesday from Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions.

And then on Thursday, the president himself brushed away that narrative, reversing his own aides’ version of events.

In fact, the president asserted, he had decided to fire Mr. Comey well before he received the advice from the Justice Department officials. He said he was frustrated by Mr. Comey’s public testimony regarding the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign and its possible contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers.

“I was going to fire Comey — my decision,” Mr. Trump told NBC. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”

The president’s comments appeared aimed at reassuring Mr. Rosenstein, who was reportedly upset at the White House’s original narrative that seemed to suggest he had instigated Mr. Comey’s firing. The White House has cited Mr. Rosenstein’s reputation as a straight shooter in justifying Mr. Trump’s move.

But the president’s story line left the White House struggling to explain his motivation for firing his F.B.I. director a day after calling the Russia investigation nothing more than a “taxpayer funded charade” that should end.

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The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, above, was reportedly upset at the White House’s initial narrative around the firing of James. B. Comey. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Critics said the credibility of the White House had been badly damaged and renewed calls for a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation, independent of the administration.

The White House’s explanation was challenged on Thursday in other ways as well. The president’s spokeswoman said on Wednesday that Mr. Comey was fired in part because he had lost the support of rank-and-file F.B.I. employees. But on Thursday, Andrew G. McCabe, the new acting director of the agency, told the Senate that Mr. Comey enjoyed “broad support within the F.B.I. and still does to this day.”

And while the White House said on Wednesday that the Russia inquiry was only a small part of the bureau’s activities, Mr. McCabe called it “a highly significant investigation.”

Throughout the rapidly shifting 48 hours, Mr. Rosenstein appeared to be caught in the middle.

Confirmed just last month, he made a trip to Capitol Hill on Thursday for a previously unannounced meeting with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In a brief hallway conversation with a reporter, Mr. Rosenstein denied reports that he had threatened to quit.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has agreed to invite Mr. Rosenstein to brief the entire Senate next week, said the minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

In his Wednesday deliberations, Mr. Rosenstein made clear that the timeline needed to be accurate, and that he did not want to “massage” the version of events. His discussions included Mr. McGahn, Mr. Sessions and other senior administration officials, according to a person familiar with the conversation who was not authorized to discuss it. It concluded with a four-sentence statement that was released by the White House on Wednesday evening.

That statement noted that Mr. Trump had met with both Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions on Monday to discuss reasons to remove Mr. Comey. It said that Mr. Rosenstein had submitted his written recommendation to Mr. Sessions on Tuesday, who sent his own recommendation to Mr. Trump soon afterward.

Mr. Rosenstein’s memo, while highly critical of Mr. Comey’s actions over the past year, stopped short of explicitly recommending his ouster. “Although the president has the power to remove an F.B.I. director,” he wrote, “the decision should not be taken lightly.”

In the NBC interview, Mr. Trump elaborated on his claim that Mr. Comey had told him on three occasions that the president himself was not under investigation. The F.B.I. has been looking into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign coordinated with Russia as Moscow orchestrated an effort to intervene in the American election and tilt the election to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Comey had reassured him first at a private dinner, and then during two phone conversations. He acknowledged that he had directly asked if he was being investigated.

“I said, ‘If it’s possible, would you let me know if I’m under investigation?’” Mr. Trump said. “He said, ‘You are not under investigation.’”

The admission raised questions on Thursday among reporters, who asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, whether it was inappropriate for the president to ask the F.B.I. director whether he was under investigation. “No, I don’t believe it is,” Ms. Sanders said.

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, briefed reporters on Thursday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

The president said Mr. Comey requested the dinner early in his administration to ask to keep his job. That would be an unusual — and perhaps unnecessary — step for an F.B.I. director, who by law is appointed for a 10-year term. Mr. Comey was four years into his term when Mr. Trump was inaugurated.

“He wanted to stay on as the F.B.I. head,” Mr. Trump said. “I said: ‘I’ll consider. We’ll see what happens.’ But we had a very nice dinner and at that time, he told me I wasn’t under investigation, which I knew anyway.”

In explaining his decision to fire Mr. Comey, Mr. Trump said that “the F.B.I. has been in turmoil” since last year, an apparent reference to the controversy over how the Clinton investigation was managed, and “it hasn’t recovered from that.”

Mr. Trump also insisted, as he has before, that there was “no collusion between my campaign and Russia.”

The interview underscored what has been a continuing challenge for the Trump administration to provide the public with accurate information about the president’s actions and motivations.

On Tuesday evening, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in an interview on Fox Business Network that it was Mr. Rosenstein who had “made a determination” about Mr. Comey and the president had followed it. At the time, Mr. Spicer was merely dutifully relaying the White House’s position.

Mr. Pence did the same in his comments to reporters the next day. And at the daily White House briefing on Wednesday, Ms. Sanders was asked whether the advice from Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions was only a pretext for a decision the president had already made. “No,” she said.

On Thursday, after the president’s NBC interview, she changed gears.

“I hadn’t had a chance to have the conversation directly with the president,” she said. “I’d had several conversations with him, but I didn’t ask that question directly — ‘had you already made that decision.’ I went off of the information that I had when I answered your question.”

But she stuck by her contention that Mr. Comey had lost the faith of his employees — even though the agency’s acting director had contradicted it. “I’ve certainly heard from a large number of individuals, and that’s just myself,” Ms. Sanders said, “and I don’t even know that many people in the F.B.I.”

Correction: May 11, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the middle initial for the deputy attorney general. He is Rod J. Rosenstein, not Rod S. Rosenstein.

Continue reading the main story

Russia ‘full-scope cyber actor’ that will remain ‘major threat’ to US ‒ intel director

Russia 'full-scope cyber actor' that will remain 'major threat' to US ‒ intel director
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has accused Russia of being a “full-scope cyber actor” that will remain a “major threat” to the US government. The DNI made the comments during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on global threats.

Coats was joined by several other heads of the intelligence community: CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Robert Cardillo.

The panel discussed worldwide threats to the US, ranging from cybersecurity dangers by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran to international crises involving North Korea and terrorism.

“I understand that many people tuned in today are hopeful we’ll focus solely on the Russian investigation of their involvement in our elections. Let me disappoint everybody up front,” Chair Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) said in his opening statement. “While the committee certainly views Russian intervention in our elections as a significant threat, the purpose of today’s hearing is to review and highlight to the extent possible the ranges of threats that we face as a nation.”

Despite Burr’s intentions, much of the focus, especially from Democrats, was dominated by discussions of alleged Russian cyber penetration into the US and French presidential elections, as well as the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. McCabe took the place of former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired on Tuesday.

Russia is ‘greatest threat of any nation on Earth’ – FBI director https://on.rt.com/8apd 

‘Russian interference’

Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-Virginia) immediately began focusing on Russia, Comey’s firing and the FBI probe. He asked if the intel community’s late January assessment accurately characterized Russian interference in the 2016 election, to which the entire panel answered yes.

He also asked about the alleged Russian hacking in the French presidential election. On Tuesday, Rogers informed a different Senate committee that the US notified French officials that it had found evidence of Russian hacking. Warner wanted to know what the US is doing to prevent future Russian interference.

In his written testimony, Coats discussed how Russian interference has advanced.

“Moscow has a highly advanced offensive cyber program, and in recent years, the Kremlin has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture,” which “was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 US election,” and that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the… data thefts and disclosures,” he wrote.

It has also spread elsewhere, including Montenegro and Ukraine, Coats told the senators, especially with its manipulation of social media. Russia is a “great threat to democratic process,” he said, accusing Moscow of seeking to “maintain control over Kiev and frustrating European integration” in 2017.

Pompeo also cited the importance of social media as a tool for Russian cyber interference, saying it presents a continuing threat.

“There’s nothing new, only the cost has been lowered,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied meddling in other countries’ elections and internal politics. Several members of the intelligence community have admitted that the alleged Russian interference in the US would have been about changing minds, but didn’t change physical votes.

Other cyber threats

Echoing Rogers’ testimony on cybersecurity in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the panel discussed other countries ‒ specifically China, Iran and North Korea ‒ that are involved in cyber warfare and hacking.

“Our adversaries are becoming bolder, more capable and more adept at using cyberspace to threaten our interests and shape real-world outcomes,” said Coats. “And the number of adversaries grows as nation states, terrorist groups, criminal organizations and others continue to develop cyber capabilities.”

China is targeting both the US government and American companies, Coats said, but noted that the attacks have decreased since Washington and Beijing reached a “common understanding”on cyber spying in 2015. Tehran is making use of its high-tech capabilities, Coats said, outlining a 2013 Iranian hacking incident and a 2014 data-deletion attack. North Korea “previously conducted cyber-attacks against US commercial entities,” he said in his written testimony, citing the 2014 Sony hack, and “remains capable of launching disruptive or destructive cyber attacks to support its political objectives” against both the US and its allies.

Although Rogers noted on Monday that US Cyber Command, which he also heads, is “still trying to find a way forward” on creating a cybersecurity plan, Pompeo praised the Trump administration’s headway in the area.

“This administration has reentered the battlespace in places the previous administration was absent,” the CIA director said.

Coats, however, sided with Rogers, telling Senator John Lankford (R-Oklahoma): “All of us would agree we need a cyber doctrine.”

North Korea

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, Coats described North Korea as a “very significant, potentially existential” threat to the US, while Pompeo told Sen. Angus King (I-Maine): “We haven’t seen anything that would make any of us feel any better about this threat.”

However, the CIA director told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), “the Chinese have made efforts they have not made before” using trade, including restricting coal, but noted that Beijing can do more to pressure Pyongyang on its nuclear program. Coats agreed with that assessment, telling Feinstein that “interaction with the Chinese of late, we think, can play a significant role in terms of how we deal with this.”

China tests new missile near Korean peninsula https://on.rt.com/8b75 

Photo published for China tests new missile near Korean peninsula — RT News

China tests new missile near Korean peninsula — RT News

Beijing has tested a new missile close to the Korean peninsula amid heightened tensions in the region, after North Korea, South Korea, and the US recently conducted military drills in the area.

rt.com

On the reclusive country’s increased testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, Stewart of the DIA warned that, although North Korea hasn’t yet carried out a complete test of ICBM with a nuclear device, “they’re going to put those two together at some point.”

The panel declined to answer many of the senators’ questions on North Korea, preferring instead to reserve their responses for a second, closed hearing on Thursday afternoon.

War on Terror

Afghanistan, where the US “war on terrorism” began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, is a major concern, Stewart told Burr. “Unless we change something, such as inserting US forces or NATO forces, that changes the balance of forces on the ground… the situation will continue to deteriorate” and all the gains of the past several years will be lost.

militants developing own social media platform, ‘its own part of the internet to run its agenda’ https://on.rt.com/8amo 

Referencing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Coats said the terrorist group “will continue to be a threat to the US,” as it “maintains the intent and capability to direct, enable, assist, and inspire transnational attacks.”

“This threat will persist with many attacks happening with little or no warning,” he said.

North Korea to launch Korean-style attacks on US and Seoul spy agencies over Kim Jong-un murder plot

World

Ananya Roy,International Business Times 14 hours ago

CIA chief Pompeo brands WikiLeaks a ‘hostile’ spy agency

The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, has branded WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence agency,” claiming it represents a threat to US national security. The group has been accused of swaying the 2016 presidential election.

USA Mike Pompeo in Washington (picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Martinez Monsivais)

In his first public speech since being appointed as CIA chief, Pompeo on Thursday said WikiLeaks was often abetted by other countries, adding that the group had “no moral compass.”

He claimed that – rather than opposing dictators and autocratic regimes – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was guilty of siding with them.

“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” Pompeo said.

“I am quite confident that had Assange been around in the 30s, and the 40s and the 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history. We know this because Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today.”

Read: Seven ways to keep the CIA out of your home

Pompeo said that while WikiLeaks claimed to be a champion of freedom, its members were more interested in their public profile.

“They try unsuccessfully to cloak themselves and their actions in the language of liberty and privacy, but in reality, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is click bait. Their moral compass – non existent.”

Red faces for US officials

Last month, WikiLeaks published almost 8,000 documents saying they revealed secrets about CIA cyber espionage tools. Previously, it released 250,000 State Department cables and embarrassed the US military with logs from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Watch video02:16

WikiLeaks dump exposes CIA eavesdropping

US intelligence agencies claim Democratic emails released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign had originally been hacked by Russia to swing the election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – in favor of Republican Donald Trump. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied that the release was intended to influence the election.

Before the November election, Trump said he was happy to see WikiLeaks publish private and politically damaging emails from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

Assange, from Australia, has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after allegations of rape in Sweden, which he denies. Assange claims the proceedings are being used as a pretext to allow for his extradition to the US.

rc/bw (AFP, AP Reuters)

 

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House Democrat says Trump may have leaked government secrets

A remark that President Trump made to Fox News on Wednesday isn’t sitting well with the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who is now suggesting that the commander-in-chief’s comments, if true, could be compared to the actions of government leakers.

In an exclusive interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night, President Trump suggested “the CIA was hacked and a lot of things were taken.” He added “that was during the Obama years. That was not during us.”

The president may have been referring to the recent publishing of what are alleged to be CIA documents and hacking tools by the website WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims that the leaks are real, and highlight what he calls the “devastating incompetence” of the agency’s cybersecurity. The CIA has yet to confirm whether the materials are, in fact, authentic.

On Thursday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, took serious issue with the president’s suggestion that the agency was hacked. And Schiff says that, if true, the president’s comments are akin to the actions of those who leak government secrets.

WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS STAND BY TRUMP WIRETAPPING CLAIM

“It would be one thing if the president’s statements were the product of intelligence community discussion and a purposeful decision to disclose information to the public, but that is unlikely to be the case,” Schiff said in a statement.

He added that while he thinks “the president has the power to declassify whatever he wants… this should be done as the product of thoughtful consideration and with intense input from any agency affected. For anyone else to do what the president may have done, would constitute what he deplores as ‘leaks.'”

A Fox News poll released Wednesday shows a record 73 percent of voters have confidence in the CIA, up from 67 percent in December.

In recent weeks, the president has made clear his distaste for leakers. On February 24, the president lamented on Twitter that “the FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time… Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect.”

Critics point to his support for WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign as evidence to the contrary. “I love WikiLeaks,” then-nominee Trump said during campaign remarks in October.

The investigation into possible CIA hacking isn’t the only thing over which Schiff seems to be at odds with Trump. On Wednesday, Schiff and House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) repeated their assertions that they have yet to see any evidence that supports the president’s claim that Trump Tower was the subject of wiretapping.

TRUMP GIVES CIA POWER TO LAUNCH DRONE STRIKES

And on Thursday, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee took that assertion one step further, suggesting in a statement that they have seen no evidence that Trump Tower was under surveillance “by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.”

In a March 4 tweet, the president suggested that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” When asked on Wednesday why he didn’t withhold comment until he had proof of his claim, President Trump told Tucker Carlson “don’t forget, when I say wiretapped, those words were in quotes… [T]hat really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing.”

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

New Fox polling also suggests that 76 percent of voters think President Trump should produce documents to back his claim about the wiretaps. That includes 63 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents.

The Department of Justice has until Monday to comply with an order from the House Intelligence Committee to gather evidence related to President Trump’s surveillance claim, though Rep. Nunes suggests he expects some of that evidence on Friday.

Monday is also when the committee expects to hold its first open hearing on Russia’s interference in the 2016 race and possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia. FBI Director Comey is expected to face direct questioning at that hearing, and it isn’t just the House that’s looking for answers.

Senator Lindsay Graham suggested earlier this week that subpoenas aren’t out of the question if lawmakers don’t get the information they’re looking for.

“Congress,” Graham said, “is going to flex its muscles.”

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